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Dualism Persists in the Science of Mind


Address for correspondence: Steven Laureys, Coma Science Group, Cyclotron Research Centre and Neurology Department, Sart Tilman B30, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.


The relationship between mind and brain has philosophical, scientific, and practical implications. Two separate but related surveys from the University of Edinburgh (University students, n= 250) and the University of Liège (health-care workers, lay public, n= 1858) were performed to probe attitudes toward the mind–brain relationship and the variables that account for differences in views. Four statements were included, each relating to an aspect of the mind–brain relationship. The Edinburgh survey revealed a predominance of dualistic attitudes emphasizing the separateness of mind and brain. In the Liège survey, younger participants, women, and those with religious beliefs were more likely to agree that the mind and brain are separate, that some spiritual part of us survives death, that each of us has a soul that is separate from the body, and to deny the physicality of mind. Religious belief was found to be the best predictor for dualistic attitudes. Although the majority of health-care workers denied the distinction between consciousness and the soma, more than one-third of medical and paramedical professionals regarded mind and brain as separate entities. The findings of the study are in line with previous studies in developmental psychology and with surveys of scientists’ attitudes toward the relationship between mind and brain. We suggest that the results are relevant to clinical practice, to the formulation of scientific questions about the nature of consciousness, and to the reception of scientific theories of consciousness by the general public.